Suicide Awareness: The little things

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Thomas Karol
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Loss is something some people will experience in their lives. It is a constant part of who we are, and it can sometimes shape our personalities. This is why resilience is so important and can help us to deal with difficult situations. As a person who has experienced loss, I would like to share my experience, how I found my way out and was able to move on from it.

Loss can sometimes be expected with an older family member or friend, and other times it is not, like a friend getting in a bad accident or taking their own life. All are still traumatic, and it is still never easy to hear about a loved one passing away. It can change so many things in our lives and make every moment feel like agony. There are ways to learn to move on, but it can be a slow, painful journey.

Each time I heard the news that one of my friends took their life, it was never something I saw coming. All I could think at the time was why did they do this? Why didn’t they let me know they were going through something challenging? Why?

This has happened to friends of mine in the military and in the civilian world. Suicide is not just an issue in the military. It is an epidemic that affects people from all walks of life. No matter who is impacted by suicide, directly or indirectly, many of the reasons leading up to the decision are similar, and ultimately come down to the individual feeling like the world would be better off without them. I wish I could have just reached my hand out and pulled them away from the situation; like shaking someone out of a bad dream. I wish I could have been there to help them with their suffering.

We need to do better for the sake of the people around us. Some of the smallest actions can send the strongest messages.

One of the toughest things I have found about dealing with the topic of suicide and loss is finding someone to help put it into perspective. I could understand loss, but not the thought process behind suicide. I cannot quite understand why it happened. Then I met someone who had the experience to educate me.

Before we met, this person had a desire to take their own life. She wanted to do it because of how many traumatic experiences she had to deal with. After a few days of contemplating whether or not to take her life, she decided she could not go through with it and pursued counseling where she found a new meaning to life. Her therapy sessions continue to this day. It was a long and painful journey, but it resulted in her still being alive and better than ever.

There are places people can go to get the help they need. It can be just a phone call away, an online resource, or a short trip. I appreciate that the Air Force has resources available to people who need it.
Even though there are great places to go get support, how do we get the people who need it to those who can help? My suggested answer is us. The Airmen need to do it. It is on all of us to get people where help can be found, or even just lending an ear and empathizing with their situation.

One of the things learned and found helpful was ACE: Ask, Care, Escort. The acronym is simple to remember and makes it easier to remember the process to help those suffering with feeling alone or depressed. There is no judgment; just people helping people.

Suicide awareness and prevention is a complex topic that one person can’t solve on their own. What we can do as individuals is keep an eye on our friends and family and we will have a much better shot. It all starts with a question from a concerned friend.